Dedicated team, volunteers behind continued success

The mission of Porter County Aging and Community Services continues to be buoyed by devoted volunteers, caring staff and dedicated board members.

“Our volunteers are vital to our programs and how much we are able to impact our communities,” said PCACS Executive Director Bruce Lindner at the 2019 annual meeting. “The number of hours they put in is phenomenal. We truly could not do this without them.

“I love getting up every day and having a shared purpose that we can all work toward and help those in our communities who really need it.”

PCACS administers a variety of programs that are essential to many community members and the annual meeting is an important time to reflect on their impact, Lindner said.

The Energy Assistance Program assisted 1,170 clients, including 435 elderly and 325 individuals with disabilities, with their energy bills. This past season, the program paid $622,070 to help with energy costs.

EAP is supported by long-time volunteers Gail Galvan, Inge Nimtz, Alexis Brandt and Dorothea Price.

“Having the same knowledgeable volunteers work with clients on this program year after year allows us to continually provide the type of service we strive for every season,” Lindner said. “Their continued commitment to this role shines through and elevates the experience of those in need while making the process as smooth as possible.”

PCACS’ door-to-door demand-response transportation service has assisted individuals for more than 50 years. In the last fiscal year, buses were in service 243 days making 25,353 one-way trips. The program served 260 new clients and a total of 192,794 passenger miles were accumulated.

“We were able to keep eight buses rolling for most of the year and averaged 104 trips per day, which was up from 94 the previous year,” Lindner said.

The ramp program has continued to ramp up because of organizations that come together to offer their time and talents, Lindner said.

“The UAW/Ford Community Service team, Thrivent for Lutherans, Habitat for Humanity, Task Force Tips and recently added partner organization Valparaiso Noon Kiwanis Club have boosted the program to record numbers year after year,” Lindner said.

The ramp program, launched in 2007, is based in the principle that accessing a home can make a huge impact on those facing mobility challenges as well as their caregivers. Wood or steel structures can ease the burden of movement while leaving and entering a home.

“Our funding as well as skilled and loyal volunteers have us on track to help more and more community members with 24 ramps already built since July 2018,” Lindner said. “While we have a list of those needing assistance, we are always accepting names of those individuals who need help.”

The State Health Insurance Program also relies on faithful volunteers who can help seniors navigate the world of Medicare, Lindner said.

“We can help with anything related to Medicare,” said SHIP volunteer and coordinator Ginger Brockwehl. “During the open enrollment period in the fall, we encourage everyone on Medicare to review the plan and make sure they have the best coverage for the year.”

Brockwehl emphasizes that the volunteers, which also include Deborah Brann and Jim Mooney, are available year-round to meet with any seniors who have questions at the PCACS offices and sometimes at Banta Senior Center in Valparaiso or Bonner Senior Center in Portage. The volunteers are also available to speak to groups about SHIP’s services.

The team worked with more than 200 seniors during the Open Enrollment Period last season. The counselors submitted 45 applications for the Medicare savings program and 14 applications for the Medicare Part D Extra Help, resulting in $5,200 in funding.

Along with volunteers, the PCACS leadership team continues to create an environment for things to get accomplished, Lindner said. Deputy Director Judy Peracki, Section 8 Housing Director Valerie Martinez, Transportation Director Flo Snuffer and Carol Hammond, with the EAP, bring together countless years of experience.

“Our long-term team members are not only experts at working within these programs and providing stellar service, but they also have the essential element of passion for our community that makes such a difference in our ability to make an impact,” Lindner said.

PCACS unites with non-profits to provide needed items

New partnerships have strengthened PCACS’ mission to connect community members to needed resources.

The PCACS team is now working with I Support the Girls, which assists women with everyday essentials, as well as Changing Footprints, which supplies shoes to individuals all around the world.

Anyone in need of new or gently used bras or new or gently used shoes may stop by the PCACS offices from 9 to 11 a.m. or 1 to 3 p.m.

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Nipsco TV with child.JPG

Thank you Nipsco!

We are so appreciative of the support that we received from NIPSCO. The company has sponsored our new TV, which will be enjoyed by our clients and utilized by our staff for training.